The Rumpus: Out of the Vinyl Deeps

By David Ulin
The Rumpus

Willis_Out coverA new collection of music criticism from renowned critic, Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music, is equal parts service journalism and cultural commentary.

Ellen Willis, who died in 2006 at the age of 64, was the first pop music critic of the New Yorker, writing 56 pieces for the magazine between 1968 and 1975. Although she went on to become a groundbreaking journalist and editor at the Village Voice, focusing on feminism and her own stunning brand of liberation politics, and later founded the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU, her roots remain in rock ’n’ roll. At the same time, she also understood that criticism — at least as practiced in a publication such as the New Yorker — was equal parts service journalism and cultural commentary, requiring her to connect to the commercial demands of her readers (Should I buy this record? Should I pay attention to this band?) while also transcending them. Her music writing is remarkable for never losing sight of this duality, which is the duality at the heart of pop.

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